Another one bites the dust

At 7.00am yesterday morning the monument that marked where Franco held a secret meeting in some woods in Tenerife was taken down… down… down. Just three weeks ago Gayle and I with Jonathan, Rachael and Masie Birch were right there praying for it to come down. At one level it might well have come down without us – but what the heck we are well happy.

For Gayle and I as we come to the end of our seventh year it marked a huge full-circle scenario. This year our focus has been on the Civil War as Franco died 40 years ago this year. It is full circle when armed with revelation from Michael Schiffmann we went to Palma and discovered that the key family there was the source of the finances that started the Civil War (Franco was based in Tenerife, mainly to keep him out of trouble). In Palma right by where we lived and in the square that housed the ‘upside down church’ that was, according to the sculptor, the device to root out all evil, was the first monument in Spain that was honouring some of Franco’s crack troops was removed, so to go in the past few weeks to Tenerife and see this monument, and today to see in the papers its removal.

Without the personal involvement you might not enjoy it as much as we did today, but here is a video from someone who filmed after it had gone, then in the news links there is a video of it actually being demolished.

InfoLibre.es

Cadenaser.com

Another report put it:

Sin duda, el día de ayer se inscribe en la historia al haber puesto fin a uno de los símbolos del franquismo más significativos en la Isla.
(Undoubtedly, yesterday is part of the story that brought to an end one of the most significant symbols of the Franco regime on the island.)

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Want to study?

A few days ago Gayle was accepted on to the ‘Political Theology for Peace (Distance) PGCert of Achievement’ distance learning course at Lancaster University. She is somewhat daunted but levels of anticipation far outweigh any levels of dauntedness!!

Here is a link to the course.

The brief overview of the course says:

Political Theology for Peace is a single module combining distance learning with an intensive teaching weekend at Lancaster. The ten week course aims to serve peace practitioners already located within the various occupational spheres of society and enables them to investigate contemporary political theology as a context to evaluate and test an innovative, inclusive, reconfiguration of the politics of Jesus known as kenarchy.

Obviously Gayle and I are biased toward kenarchy, and the short book that we are re-reading The Fall of the Church is a book I recommend wholeheartedly. It is so much more profound than the simple narrative of Constantine = bad!! The implications for the people of God as we grapple with the eschatological call to shape the future are very far reaching.

We are convinced that this course will be a major contribution to the next phase of our life here in Spain. Gayle is daunted and full of anticipation. I remain undaunted!!

This post is not simply to inform you of Gayle’s application but to flag up the course as a valuable resource. Check out the link and it might well resonate as an invaluable tool. If so consider applying also.

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In Ephesus there were kenarchists

(Pre-note: if in the last few days you tried to leave a comment and was not able to, my apologies. I tightened up on spam control to such an extent that all comments were stopped!! Effective but not what I wanted to achieve. It should be fixed now.)

Gayle has just applied for a post-graduate course in Political Theology of Peace working with the material that Roger Mitchell has pioneered with ‘kenarchy’. We are reading again ‘The Fall of the Church’, and the re-reading is so worthwhile. Some of the concepts are challenging to get hold of, not primarily because they are embedded in an academic context, but because our world is embedded in a predominant culture that we think is normal that is opposition to kenarchy – and of course an understanding of the Gospel that is offered through this kenarchic lens. The profundity of the challenge is immense.

One aspect that I have struggled with is how a person can be within a system of sovereignty and yet be placed there by God the one whose power is exercised in a totally different way. I struggle (in my mind) yet happily believe that Pope Francis is indeed appointed not simply by some cardinals but by God himself. At the same time I do not believe that God appoints the papacy! In some senses (and maybe in every sense) this is no difference to the kingship in Israel. God did not call for kingship. Monarchy is a non-God aspect, yet he anoints and works with the kings.

My current way of holding these elements in tension is where it seems that it is possible to be in a position to empty that position. God is not a legalist (I am currently pursuing an understanding of the Garden of Eden story as not being a ‘law’ but ‘gift’ story) but a redeemer. To redeem must mean going to the place of wrong, embracing what is there and ‘buying it back’, at personal cost releasing value.

So here is a kenarchist story in line with the above (I have replaced one word in the text):

But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. And even some of the kenarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater (Acts 19;30,31).

Yes the original word is not kenarchs (kenarchists) but Asiarchs. This has been one of my favourite scriptures for the past few years. These kenarchs are not disciples. The chapter paints the picture of some radical conversions with the burning of occult material. These kenarchs have not gone through this process. The chapter presents the challenge to the economic structure of the city (always the sign of a spiritual shift) that is also tied to the overarching myth (here the Temple of Artemis – in our culture a different overarching myth, but no less a myth nor no less a religion).

The Asiarchs benefit from the system. They hold the system together, and if they exercise their religious rights (appointments of priests / priestesses to the Artemis cult being their responsibility) and their hierarchical political status then they will truly benefit while at the same time being able to assure the citizens that they will prosper and live in peace. The rioters, led by the silversmiths, rightly perceived that the very foundations of the city and their nicely ordered society will be totally disturbed by Paul’s Gospel. How little is our evangelical Gospel, by contrast, perceived to turn upside-down the economic and wider order of our society. This indicates we have quite a way to go to get hold of the Pauline political Gospel.

The Asiarchs benefit and will be the losers if Paul continues. Reading a little between the lines, they know Paul (they are friends) and they are aware of the implications of his message (politically), they have not been able to respond to what we term the Gospel as simplified in the ‘sinner’s prayer’ (did they not understand this part, or was the ‘cross’ foolishness to them?). Yet they knew that the future of the world depended on a different life-orientation. They knew that Paul carried a radical message, totally counter to the Imperial message of the day, that was vital to the future. By embracing Paul they were accepting that their own future status was absolutely under threat. Their own economic, social and political standing was threatened and would not survive in the light of Paul’s Gospel. Here then are some non-believing kenarchists. They are positioned hierarchically, but are now embracing a pathway of emptying the hierarchical seat they are sitting in of its power.

Here then is the question I leave in the light of this kenarchic Scripture:

An important measure of the effectiveness of the Gospel by an Acts-criterion would be where there are people who do not get the ‘personal Jesus’ bit but embrace the world-turning-upside-down part in a way that means their own positions will be no longer tenable. They empty out the unrighteous seats. Could it be that they are more anointed by God than where ‘believers’ simply work within the system to maintain the status quo and the boundaries as currently exist?

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20 November

40 years ago today Franco died. We have for the past 5 years focused on the issues surrounding the Civil War and are very thankful for the changes. Since we were in Tenerife and prayed at the monument commemorating the start of the Civil War we read (yesterday) that:

Now 40 years after, the Canaries are beginning to break the link to Francosim. This is only the beginning.
(Source: Publico.es.)

There will be some masses today in some major cathedrals to mark his death, but there is a slow and sure move away. One of the best historians on the issues surrounding the Civil War is Paul Preston. Today he wrote a concise article that gives a good grasp of things . His final comments relate to the ongoing legacy:

Today, along with the still open wounds of the civil war and the repression, two other shadows of the dictatorship hang over Spain – corruption and regional division. The Caudillo’s rigid centralism and its brutal application to the Basque Country and Catalonia had left more powerful nationalist movements there than had ever existed before 1936. (Source: Spain feels Franco’s legacy 40 years after his death.)

A wonderful article – very incisive and so redemptive was by an author I have not come across before – Tim Shuttle. (Source: France don’t make the same mistake we did.)

It is worth reading in full but here is a snippet:

Call terrorism an act of war and you unwittingly surrender the high ground. Call it murder, and you name these acts and their perpetrators much more accurately. Call it murder and you can still promise to hunt down the murderers and bring them to justice, but this time you can say: we refuse to stoop to your level. We could bomb you into oblivion but we wont, because we’re better than that. We will not become murderers like you. We refuse to seek revenge and retribution, and the world will see our true colors. We promise to bring these murderers to justice, but we refuse to join the ranks of ordinary nations by acting rashly.

I contrast that with a video that has bizillions of views on immigration by Roy Beck. Statistics are pulled out that are probably close to true if not true. BUT there is nothing redemptive in the video at all. I am appalled that such a presentation can be applauded. Apart from the total lack in the presentation of the reasons why we have the huge people movement of today, it simply re-enforces a current ‘shut our borders’ attitude. The reason why I post it here is – people we have to think redemptively if we are to follow the Lamb wherever he goes – is that I consider this much more problematic than a hard line up-front anti-immigration / racist presentation. That kind of presentation can be shunned, this one sounds so plausible and is applauded. I hear no applause in heaven.

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What painful days

I have been away in the UK for a week – maybe some comments in a later post – West Midlands with faithful friends in the Net and Amblecote and then Scotland with YWAM. While away I need remind no-one about the horrendous scenes in Paris, one headline saying that: Bataclan police ‘really saw hell’. Of that I have no doubt. I have often said to Gayle that I can understand why people are atheists when the depth of suffering is looked in the eye, and I am thankful that I too am an ‘atheist’, that I do not believe in a sovereign god who decrees such things and is not moved. I am hesitant to write something as there are limited words that can be added at this time. Words can be ‘sweet in the mouth’ but there is something in and through all of this that leaves us with severe stomach cramps (Rev. 10). However a few comments.

A people movement

At the end of last year a good trusted and remarkable prophetic seer / intercessor wrote us to say that 2015 would see the beginnings of a remarkable people movement with its start and emphasis in France. The sign this would take place would be the spontaneous singing of the Marseillaise (French national anthem). In early January this occurred and even in the National Assembly there was a spontaneous outbreak when the parliament members started singing the national anthem following a minute’s silence. It was the first time since the end of the First world war (1918) that if had been sung in the French Parliament.

A sign given like that gets one’s attention. Now we have it again. When in Amblecote I shared some of this and then said that it will be sung also on the streets of England spontaneously. When I finished two people asked if I had heard the news of this taking place in Trafalgar Sq. I had not – and since then it was sung (OK not this time spontaneously) at Wembley last night.

We are undoubtedly in one of the largest people movements / migrations the planet has experienced. Such movements mark a change of time practically and also of course spiritually. And beyond that there is a people movement that is bubbling away that is fuelling a ‘new political’ space.

The fear narrative

The fear response is inevitably very strong to what we have seen. Fear of what seems uncontrollable is normal but we have to rise above this. Years ago, not necessarily from a prophetic perspective, but from what I thought was a rather obvious perspective, I said that ‘take out Osama bin Laden and it will not destroy Al Quaeda but only strengthen it’. Read ‘The spider and the starfish’ and there is a good analysis of the difference between an organisation with a discernible head / headquarters and a movement with an ideology (virus) and leadership that is distributed throughout it. Attack the latter and the result will be a strengthening and perhaps also what appears to be mutations. (Of course the body of Christ, as it flows from the meal / Passover table and from the Upper Room is a ‘starfish’ not a ‘spider’.)

Now with IS we have a movement that is fuelled eschatologically, with the belief in a major battle in the Middle East with Jesus returning at the head of the faithful to fight against the infidels. Strange beliefs, but not too different to that of many fundamentalist Christians – BTW Armageddon does not exist. Never has, cannot be found on any map, so I don’t think we should be focused on that kind of interpretation!

A child shall lead them

This is a Scripture that has been making an impact on me. while in Amblecote I spoke that we can seek a 5 year, a 10 year or whatever strategy, but that Jesus places a child in the midst and the result will be an ‘eternal’ strategy. As I spoke those words the kids in the upstairs room without any knowledge of what I was saying began to stamp on the floor. The timing was immaculate. I thought it was thunder and only later was it explained to me as to what it was. The change of heart for many in the current people movement was the photo of the child on the beach. A child shall lead them. Or now the possibility of fear.

Don’t see all Muslims as endorsing fanatical Islam

We should not lump all Muslims together as if they are all of that fanaticism. Not all Christians support (with hindsight) the Crusades, the evangelisation of the Empires that forced conversion, nor the policies of the KKK. John makes in Revelation things pretty clear – the enemy are the beasts that operate under the dragon that de-humanise. If our theology de-humanises people so that we instantly rejoice in the death of others we need to ask whether this is a ‘Lamb-theology’ or a ‘beast-theology’.

How things are and what they should be

Of course there are huge complications, and we live in a fallen world that facilitates evil. How politicians are to respond takes wisdom and grace. They will not always get it right. Hopefully we then are not simply critical of them, but we have to be careful we do not endorse a myth just because it might seem to be the only alternative. A fallen world also facilitates redemptive ways. For those we have to pray that they manifest. If force is seen to work or be effective (!!) we must not confuse how things are with how they should be. If we cannot move beyond that we are in danger of denying the way of the cross – the violent death on the cross by the ones who exercised ‘justice’ became the means of redemption of the oppressed. Any suggestion that this is the only way to respond should only provoke that there has to be another way.

Racism is so subtle or maybe not. I was reading Charlotte Farhan, a Parisienne who refused to overlay her Facebook profile wiht the tricolour of the French flag. She said as French she could not do this.

My heart is with the world, no borders, no hierarchy. I hold every human’s life with value who is attacked by extremist beliefs whether they are based on religion, prejudice or profit. Don’t be part of the ‘us and them’ that the warmongers want you to do.

The loss of French life was absolutely tragic. It brings it home to us that we are not safe. Yet many are being tortured and killed daily that we in the West do not record. These are painful days, and for families involved these ‘days’ will not disappear in the near future. And for the many who have lost land, families, and all normal points of security in Syria and the neighbouring lands their painful days seem to have no end.

My current perspective on the return of Christ is that it is delayed until… until in the issues of life the ‘church’ moves beyond self-preservation, nationalism and de-humanisation. I don’t know if when we fail to respond rightly whether we remove / reduce the stockpile of gold, sliver and precious stones. I hope not.

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Fallen, fallen…

Ecclesiology has been somewhat lacking in theological innovation, so suggested Thomas Finger, in his two volume Theology that I read many years ago. Lacking, he suggested, because the theologians were in the main paid for by institutions that were in turn normally tied to the ecclesiastical structures. His background (Anabaptist) influenced me enormously, and through that stream I came in contact with the three-fold distinction of the ‘sacramental’, ‘protestant’ and ‘pneumatic’ streams of church (under different terms probably original to Lesslie Newbigin in Household of God, 1954). So of course being an open-minded person I found the ‘pneumatic’ stream (church is wherever the Spirit is manifesting) as the one where I had an identification.

Settling there I began to realise that many Pentecostal (Newbigin’s original term) and charismatic churches were simply ‘protestant’ with the Spirit added. In other words a biblicist way of exegeting the Bible shaped the gathering / community, and certainly defined what ‘the right way of doing church was’. Elders, apostles and prophets were on the whole the necessary shape, leading to apostolic streams and the need to belong to a ‘local’ church.

At worst anything that did not fit with church as defined above was marginalised or remained un-endorsed. This is the ‘we have boundaries’ approach and we can now decide what is inside or outside the boundary. A truly pneumatic approach would be to be less sure about the boundaries and then seek to discern what the Spirit might be doing, ready to adjust whatever was necessary to accommodate any fresh breath of the Spirit.

Armed with all the above the Constantinian conversion was the marker that saw the decisive break from a more primitive way of doing church to an institutional way. Even the Roman Catholic writer, Vincent Brannick, strongly suggested that during this era insitutionalisation made the ‘original form of church illegal’ (The House Church in the Writings of Paul). So the ‘fall’ brought us to the current era where we were getting back to the NT form and shape of church. So far so good, and so far a simple script.

More or less this was the challenge. Then it got more complex. That dreaded word ‘imperial’ and the realisation of how the imperial spirit works began to break in on my thinking. (I am focused there one more time as I am about to do some seminars on the book of Revelation – the unveiling.) In summary the empire spirit is where the shape is determined by a few who offer benefits to those who comply while the real benefits flow back to the centre, with an overlay of claiming a measure of divine mandate.

fall_of_churchGayle and I are one more time reading ‘The Fall of the Church’ (Roger Mitchell) and of course we are somewhat biased, but the profound nature of the content of this short book has to be grappled with. We have to read it slowly, not simply to understand, but to be impacted by the implications. The task ahead – or better the trajectory of the Spirit – is not simply to get us back to a right way of doing church, but a deeply Jesus-way of understanding God that means we have to totally re-shape all things around this view of God. We have to ditch our views of God as sovereign, as through the fall of the church (a process and not simply a Constantinian structural fall) God / Transcendence was subsumed (taken over by) an imperial view of rulership. God becomes the ultimate emperor.

There is a wonderful emphasis on the purpose of the church is to be in the world, with the importance of the arts, business, health etc., being highlighted. However, and this is why I do not like the term ‘mountains of influence’, if the nature of who God is as revealed in Jesus, we have a program to re-instate Christendom in a systematic way. The problem is not that we have the wrong people at the top and that we need a new, but good, emperor. The problem is we have a ‘top’, we still have an emperor is necessary mentality.

And yet it is not a simple issue of ‘in = evil’ and ‘out = good’. Most believers applaud the current pope for how he conducts himself, and he is easily identified as having a Jesus-spirit. And still, I guess, most non-RC believers are not ready to take the plunge of suggesting that the papacy is a God-given idea(l). So, very simplistically, he is in a ‘bad’ seat but is a ‘good’ person. He sits in a hierarchical seat and is working within a hierarchical structure, yet maybe the trajectory he is on could slowly empty the seat of that hierarchy until there was no more seat.

This seems the important question to anyone ‘in’ a place of influence. Where does the trajectory take you? To a place of greater visibility or to the place of losing the position.

In / out of the institution is not the question. Out cannot be usefully shaped by disillusionment or wounding. One cannot embrace something different simply through reaction. There has to be something greater than that. One cannot be within uncritically. Perhaps we can survive pragmatically – this is the position where I can best serve with my gifts… but maybe there needs to be something more. In or out I think we need a new vision for the egalitarian manifestation of the Spirit. A pneumatic view of the church as the animating life breath of the world. Maybe?

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We’ve been away

It is amazing to think in a few weeks’ time we will have been in Spain for 7 years. If we have learned anything it has probably through the mistakes we have made. Over that time our lives have ‘evolved’. No way would we have predicted we would be where we are now (nor where we are headed) and doing what we are doing. Making space (aka living in an uncomfortable vacuum) is a always a necessary step along the way. If we have realised that at day 1 we might have allowed some things to slowly filter into that space that we were not aware God was in… but he has a way so we are very happy what has squeezed in on us. And all that paragraph is saying is there is a lot more to unpack on the above!!

But we have been away. Some wonderful days in Madrid with Adrian and Pauline Hawkes. An awesome city (3rd largest in Europe) with one of the most awesome of couples. We often talk about them both. Risk takers, sold out for the marginalised, never complaining about the times they have been wronged. We hold them in high esteem and have much to learn from them.

Here we are by a wall where people were writing ‘I want to before I die…’ A place for people to record their dreams in the main square that received the word of the Lord for Spain in January this year: ‘This is the year for change in Spain. Tick, tock the clock is ticking.’

adrian_pauline

From Madrid we flew to Tenerife (this now means that we have both been in all 17 of Spain’s communidades – autonomous regions) to be with Jonathan, Rachael and Masie Birch who moved out there some two months ago. Moving to any country is a challenge. In one sense all they have done is change address in Europe but there are huge cultural and language issues in such a move. Hopefully, we were an encouragement to them. In the first phase of moving there is much that is stripped away – a necessary phase to ‘detox’ us from where we have been. We also had a little personal journey there to some Franco sites. There was a full-circle for us. Franco had a secret meeting in Tenerife with generals with regard to starting the Civil War, and he was financed by the founder of Banca March (Mallorca) that we had an amazing encounter with in the spring of 2011 before leaving there. In one sense that was why the Lord took us to Mallorca and to be in Tenerife not only were we entering the last of the 17 communidades but we were coming full circle with Banca March and the civil war. We also had a full circle with this month being the fortieth anniversary of his death and the remarkable time we had at the valley of the fallen back in March.

Two monuments were easy to find. The third that marked the place where he met in a forest in Tenerife was certainly not hard to find. I could (now) give easy instructions to anyone to find it. Literally, take this road to… take the second signpost to… drive to the end of that road… park… cross the road and you will see an obelisk that marks the meeting point. One would think not too difficult? We researched – no instructions on the internet; nothing that we found in guide books. And amazingly on the day we were looking to find it we met people from the local village. ‘Sabeis donde esta el monumento de Franco en el bosque…’ We get the reply: ‘We are from the village, do not like what Franco did are out walking looking for the monument and have not been able to find it!!!!’

These things I cannot explain. How can something that is visible be hidden? I know the answer because I have encountered this in different situations but it still amazes me.

Here is a photo of the three monuments. The obelisk that marks the roots – since (coincidentally or otherwise) our prayer time at the valley of the fallen – is now under law to be removed. A big ‘YES’ to that. The other two are to the fallen and the angel is symbolic of Franco being carried off the island to begin the war.

franco_raices

tenerife_fallen

franco_angel

 

dynamiteAnd wonderfully at the obelisk marking the original meeting place we found this stick of ‘dynamite’ discarded on the ground. Well we hope we have planted some of that in the soil!! We planted the container into a crack in the monument.

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